"like" vs "as"(Usage Disputes)
For making comparisons (i.e., asserting that one thing is similar to another), the prescribed choices are: 1. A is like B. 2. A behaves like B. 3. A behaves as B does. 4. A behaves as in an earlier situation. In 1 and 2, "like" governs a noun (or a pronoun or a noun phrase). In 3, "as" introduces a clause with a noun and a verb. In 4, "as" introduces a prepositional phrase. Look at what the word introduces, and you will know which to use. In informal English, "like" is often used in place of "as" in sentences of type 3 and 4. "Like" has been been used in the sense of "as if" since the 14th century, and in the sense of "as" since the 15th century, but such use was fairly rare until the 19th century, and "a writer who uses the construction in formal style risks being accused of illiteracy or worse" (AHD3). "Like" in 1 and 2 is a preposition; "as"/"like" in 3 or 4 and "as if" are conjunctions. Fowler put "_Like_ as conjunction" first in his list of "ILLITERACIES" (he defined "illiteracy" as "offence against the literary idiom"). In some sentences of type of 3, "as" may sound too formal: "Pronounce it as you spell it." To avoid both this formality and the stigma of "like" here, you may use "the way": "Pronounce it the way you spell it." But this solution is available only if you are specifying a single way; it doesn't work, for example, in "Play it as it's never been played before." ("Play it in a way..." might work here, but lacks the connotations of enthusiasm and excellence that "play it as" has.) The most famous use of "like" as a conjunction was in the 1950s slogan for Winston Cigarettes: "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should." The New Yorker wrote that "it would pain [Sir Winston Churchill] dreadfully", but in fact conjunctive "like" was used by Churchill himself in informal speech: "We are overrun by them, like the Australians are by rabbits." "Like" in the sense of "as if" was, until recently, more often heard in the Southern U.S. than elsewhere, and was perceived by Britons as an Americanism. When used in this sense, it is never now followed by the inflected past subjunctive: people say "like it is" or "like it was", not "like it were". Sometimes, "as" introduces a noun phrase with no following verb. When it does, it does not signify a qualitative comparison, but rather may: a) indicate a role being played. "They fell on the supplies as men starving" means that they were actually starving men; in "They fell on the supplies like men starving", one is *comparing* them to starving men. "You're acting as a fool" might be appropriate if you obtained the job of court jester; "You're acting like a fool" expresses the more usual meaning. b) introduce examples. ("Some animals, as the fox and the squirrel, have bushy tails.") "Such as" and "like" are more common in this use. For the use of "like" here, see the next entry. c) be short for "as ... as": "He's deaf as a post" means "He's as deaf as a post" (a quantitative comparison).
This is a temporary page for the development of aue FAQ material and the testing of scripts.
Please do not bookmark this page.